Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

nappy valley

About two years ago I started writing a blog that no one ever saw. No one apart from my wife at least. It was about all sorts of nonsense that all sorts of people already wrote about all the time. I knew that but still she was very encouraging.

“I’m so pleased you’ve started a blog, Benji. This could be your thing.”

She really wanted me to have ‘a thing’. She was so driven and had lots of ‘things’. What’s more, she never made of secret of the fact that she was worried about marrying a focused, driven, slim, young guy who might one day turn into a sluggish, self-satisfied, old, fat guy.

“I think it’s great that you’ve got a new hobby.”

Condescending but only to make me laugh. Always acting like her friends (who found her hilarious) were in the room with us to hear the gags.

But one thing’s for sure. She really wanted me to start a blog. She really wanted me to write. I wrote several distinctly average posts but from her reaction you’d have thought I’d published the third testament. She couldn’t have been more encouraging in life.

Then two months after she died a really good friend came round to our place to play with my son. He’d started a blog to chart his progress in training for the London marathon and I told him that I was thinking of starting my own. He appreciated why immediately.

“Do it!” is all he said.

And so I did. And I’ve talked at length about all the reasons why. But to be honest I guess I’m really doing it for my wife. Apart from all of the crying and the misery I know she’d really love the man that I am now. Sadly, I’ve never tried harder to please her than I have since she died. But perhaps that’s how we honour the dead. It’s something I see the other widows and widowers who I’ve met since Desreen died doing every day.

The blog itself was the reason I was invited to attend an event last night, a ceremony that recognises achievement in parent blogging. I was flattered to be asked but also felt a bit weird about the whole thing. The idea of walking into a huge room predominantly occupied with happy mums filled me with dread. And it was even harder than I imagined.

“Love you, Mummy!” I heard one child shout again and again as he was handed over to his daddy.

I felt like a recovering alcoholic who had just landed in Napa Valley for a two week holiday. Uncomfortable, irritable and wholly out of place.

But I was there for a reason. My blog was nominated for an award. An accolade which, in itself, meant very little to me. But one that I understood could help the blog reach more people, win or lose. It won and lots more people have visited the site since. So in effect it won twice.

But I guess the real personal win for me was knowing that my wife would be so proud. Knowing that she was the reason why I started writing. Without her in life I wouldn’t have had the drive. Without her in death I’d never have had the subject matter. So thinking about it I wish this blog didn’t exist. I wish I hadn’t been invited to last night’s event. And I wish I hadn’t won an award. But I’ve done it all to honour her and to try to make sure her completely unnecessary death isn’t entirely in vain.

I love you, Dessie. You still give me my drive and you still make me laugh x

Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 09.36.42

20 comments on “nappy valley

  1. nicola
    June 22, 2013

    nice one Ben, well done x

  2. Natalie hurst
    June 22, 2013

    You thoroughly deserved to win Ben x

  3. Carrie Dunne
    June 22, 2013

    Firstly, congratulations for winning the award and I am one of many who are grateful for your blog.

    It is so true about wanting to make your loved one proud and want to honour them and at the same time recognise the drive they gave you. For me it was poetry and something I can’t believe I’ve found some interest in – the interest came from my late husband, Richard. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a bit of my story….and poem!

    Although Richard was a mathematics and science teacher/lecturer/writer he knew so much about literature and would often recite or read poetry to me. I admired him for his knowledge and never thought I’d be able to understand poetry but something made me express my emotions while sitting on a bench in the cemetery. I saw a lone magpie (‘one for sorrow’ etc) and wondered why I hadn’t noticed one before Richard died. Surely, there were markers before a disaster? Isn’t that what all the little ditties, visual warnings and good luck signs tell you? The writing helped me express my grief and shock at finding myself without him.
    Whatever its quality, the poem flowed easily and I just hope I made Richard proud:

    Why didn’t I notice?

    Why didn’t I notice
    The magpie of sorrow,
    The grey apparition,
    The white feather that floated past?

    Why didn’t I notice
    The cracks in the pavement,
    The broken new mirror,
    The clover leaf that fell apart?

    Why didn’t I notice
    The upside-down horseshoe,
    The thirteen on the door,
    The black cat that wouldn’t cross my path?

    Why didn’t I notice
    The patterning of that last day,
    The transparency of that last moment,
    The symmetry of that laughter, our first and our last?

    Why didn’t I notice
    Our luck had run out – the die had been cast?

    Carrie

  4. Katherine
    June 22, 2013

    Congrats on the win, even though I know you wished you were not even in this game. I know I try to honor my husband in things that I do or new outlooks on situations that once made me act petty and small. His memory makes me smile.

    A friend this week said that after you lose someone you love that you are in a “different and higher plane.” That the petty quarrels between spouses over who cleans up after supper now seem trivial because the curtain of certitude that nothing bad can happen has been torn away for us who have had such deep losses. We know more than the average person and can rise above the daily stuff to be a beacon of, in her words, “live each day with kindness and grace because you knmight not get another day.” I cannot be a beacon but I hope that I am acting with kindness and grace.

    Thank you Ben.

  5. Fiona
    June 22, 2013

    Congratulations Ben, I’ve only recently found your blog through someone on the WAY fb page. I lost my partner 6 months ago and can relate to lots of what you say. I’m sure your wife would be very proud of you and I’m sure your son will be too, once he’s old enough to read all your posts. Hugs xx

  6. Andy
    June 22, 2013

    Thoroughly well earned recognition. Huge regard for your blog Ben which has been a massive support to me whilst i have been treading a similar path.

  7. Emilie Adams
    June 22, 2013

    Congratulations on the award Ben. A well deserved accolade. D would be so proud I’m sure.
    Emilie x

  8. Congratulations, Ben. Your speech during the ceremony was incredibly moving and made the rest of us at the table a little teary eyed. Sorry, we pounced on you (poor thing, you looked rather taken aback having 4 women forcing you to take our photo) earlier yesterday as you made your way into the Brewery. We yelled and hollered as you walked up the stage.

    Being a blogging mother conference thingy first timer and ONLY Asian person with the weirdest hybrid accent in a room of 500+ people…..yes, I totally understand how intimidating a room full of oestrogen, I mean, women can be, all very chirpy after lots of alcohol and no food. Congratulations again on your win!

  9. 1writeplace
    June 23, 2013

    I love the pic.I could never gather the nerve to do what you did, kudos. I’ll just keep checking in on you as if you weren’t a famous blogger :>)

  10. Gina Sharp
    June 23, 2013

    Thank you for stopping me feeling sorry for myself over the slightest stupidest thing and making me remember x

  11. Sarah
    June 23, 2013

    Congratulations on your win, now I’m off to read the rest of your blog

  12. avenue57
    June 23, 2013

    Well done on winning, I’m now following your blog and and journey

    Fiona

  13. Wow. 1- your wife was beautiful and it sounds like she was on the inside too. 2-she was right about writing, you do it so well.

    Well done on winning and being a great role model for your son.

    X

  14. tamsynwood
    June 23, 2013

    i saw you go up- i was moved to tears. my husband escaped dying after his accident, but 2 years on is severely disabled, cognitively impaired and blind. we have 4 kids…so seeing you go up for your award, i know yuo wouldn’t even be there if it happened been for her death, i wouldn’t have got mine either if alex hadn’t had his accident. it’s strange, unfair in a way, bitter sweet. but you are stoic, one of life’s survivors and she must be so proud of you, as she always was (else she wouldn’t have picked you to marry her!)

    well done, despite the pain…

    tamsyn x

  15. Actually Mummy
    June 23, 2013

    As I said last night, I too wish you hadn’t had to be there, but your writing is amazing, and I imagine your wife would be incredibly proud, not only of what you are doing with your blog, but also of your ability to face what is most definitely an intimidating (though wholly welcoming) room of mothers. Well done.

  16. Gourmet Mum
    June 25, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    I just read your post, and I understand why you wish you didn’t win, but I still want to congratulate you on your award. You are a most excellent writer and the subject is very painful and difficult. I am blessed not to have lost anyone close to me (yet) but I still follow your blog and I see how much you are helping others around you.

    I wonder if you were around on the Saturday morning to see Katie Piper? I find your story and her story very similar in the way that good is coming from the difficult things you have been through. However, it’s been your choice to do that (as it was hers too) and that’s the incredible thing, the choice you have made, and that’s why you deserve this award.

    I hope you don’t mind me writing this, I feel quite inadequate not really knowing how it really feels to be in your position. I just want to encourage you as I think you are a tremendous writer, father and husband.

    Much much love, Filipa (AKA Gourmet Mum) x

  17. gourmetmum
    June 25, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    I just read your post, and I understand why you wish you didn’t win, but I still want to congratulate you on your award. You are a most excellent writer and the subject is very painful and difficult. I am blessed not to have lost anyone close to me (yet) but I still follow your blog and I see how much you are helping others around you.

    I wonder if you were around on the Saturday morning to see Katie Piper? I find your story and her story very similar in the way that good is coming from the difficult things you have been through. However, it’s been your choice to do that (as it was hers too) and that’s the incredible thing, the choice you have made, and that’s why you deserve this award.

    I hope you don’t mind me writing this, I feel quite inadequate not really knowing how it really feels to be in your position. I just want to encourage you as I think you are a tremendous writer, father and husband.

    Much much love, Filipa (AKA Gourmet Mum) x

  18. nornironman
    June 26, 2013

    Hi Ben. Belated congratulations on this achievement and for the recognition on the work you’re undertaking via this blog.

  19. lifeasawidower.com
    June 26, 2013

    Thanks so much for all the kind comments x

  20. SHARRON
    June 28, 2013

    HONOUR THE PHYSICAL BODY THAT HAS PASSED.. HER SPIRIT IS STILL HER… xxx

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